The Executive Sponsors’ role in Adoption
After the Go-live has run and the fanfare has dropped it becomes quite a challenge to keep the focus on your change to ensure adoption is growing and is on track to deliver the documented benefits or project goals. This is where the executive sponsors’ role plays in an integral part in adoption success.
What makes it even harder is that you lose focus because you have transferred ongoing management of the change to the operational managers or your real job is taking your time.
The biggest mistake I see in many projects is that there are no plans for after the implementation. Measures are not in place, benefits are not tracked. There is no system in place that focuses your attention to manage progress. There is no process or resources charged with embedding the change. So how does the executive sponsors’ role help in adoption?
Keep the adoption growing
So, what can be arranged to actively ensure the change is adopted quickly by the majority of staff. Staff who have the skill and knowledge to be effective. Someone needs to take charge for the long term. They need to ensure processes and practices are in place and working after the project closure. Read any project or change management textbooks and that task is what the sponsor is charged to do. In my experience, this doesn’t usually happen for a number of reasons.
The key takeaway for ensuring the growth of a change is to plan for it. It takes deliberate effort to grow user adoption. The #ExecutiveSponsors role is so important in adoption. Find out more in our article here. #adoption… Click To Tweet
For a start, the project will only succeed if the person in the executive sponsors’ role is active. They must be visible and have the passion to ensure the benefits are realised. The person cannot just pick up the executive sponsors’ role at the end of the project and hope that it will succeed. They must be present all the way through from idea through to the end. If this responsibility is delegated to someone they too must have the passion. This person must be well informed and aware that they will be taking on the role.
Executive Sponsors’ Role: Accountability and Project success
As the lead, you take on the accountability to ensure the project deliverable is a success and that the agreed benefits are realised. In some cases, this may not be seen for some time after Go-Live, so the focus needs to be kept up. To take full advantage of the optimism in the early stages of most change initiatives, planning should start well before the project Go-Live.
Remember the old saying “What you don’t manage, you can’t measure”, well that’s true in this instance as well. Measurements and the process of gathering them, need to be in place before the implementation. This not only provides a baseline but also the opportunity to test the process. It also protects against not falling into creating measures that cannot be measured easily, like “Staff will be more efficient”.
Having measures in place show where the successful adoption is appearing. This can lead to real success stories, based on data or demonstrated progress. You can share with the organisation to help build enthusiasm throughout the organisation. Depending on the data captured you may be able to find individuals that are performing well. It would be great to publicly acknowledge, recognise or reward them.
Taking caution with recognition
A word of caution on recognition techniques. The reward will need to be meaningful to the individual. If not, it may have no effect or even have a negative effect. There is a risk of negative consequences if you decide to publish the measure and this is misaligned to your organisational culture. Talking to the team or staff member’s manager as they will be the best to know the individual and in most cases are the best person to present the reward.
To help formalise the process the change measures may also be integrated into the staff performance appraisals. If you can influence this strategy, then it can reinforce and embed the intended behaviour. Again, be very careful because without proper planning. Without the right measurement, effective communications and consultation, it may have a very real negative effect on the staff. The staff’s view of the appraisal process must be considered. If the consensus is ‘that appraisals are just a management time waster’; then adding more will not have the desired effect. Another benefit to measurement is that if things overall are not going well, you can identify and acknowledge. Seek out the challenges and obstacles honestly through the capture of the data.
Supporting staff through adoption
As people adopt change at different rates it is important to acknowledge this and support the staff as they transition from shock or denial through to integration (Kubler-Ross Change Curve).
Change adoption is not a linear progression and this makes it difficult to manage. Ongoing communications, as well as collecting and providing feedback is a good tactic. Surveys are also a good source of feedback. Ensuring that these are set up early is a positive approach. Surveys taken before, during, and after the implementation will ensure the process is well known. It will make things much easier to gauge where you are making an impact.
Asking staff how they are going is a very powerful tool that can return valuable insights and identify pain points at the point of usage. Acting on this feedback can also have a positive effect on trust between you and the staff. Progressive assessments such as Prosci ADKAR® or Change Readiness are a great way to track progression and take corrective actions and provide more support.
Remove old systems to aid in adoption
One other adoption possibility is to remove the old system. This forces staff to use the new system. This will drive usage. It may, however, not have a positive impact, speed of utilisation or proficiency that you would expect. This option still needs you as the lead to be an active and visible champion of the change.
In some projects, there will be a period of adjustment. This is before you can finally review the solution as it was intended to operate. You will likely need to overcome some of the usual resistance to change. You and the coalition of support that you created throughout the project, will need to support the staff. Staff are supported while they operate new systems. This will eliminate potential problems that may not have emerged when deliverables were tested.
In conclusion, the key takeaway for ensuring the growth of a change is to plan for it. It takes deliberate effort to grow user adoption. Have your vision documented and have plans in place to achieve it. Embed meaningful measures. This will ensure ongoing actions are taken either through associated practices. Practices such as HR performance appraisals or team KPIs or regular automated surveys. Adoption growth won’t happen by itself to ensure you don’t set and forget but continue to measure and communicate.
For more from Jeff on Executive Sponsors’, enjoy the post below
How Executive Sponsors make a launch successful
How an executive sponsor can make a launch successful! Be accessible, resolve project issues and share good stories.